Before I get started, I have just a few quick comments to make. First, I'd like to thank all of the people who contacted me and shared their thoughts and questions about 1900 with me. I enjoyed the discussions a great deal. Please keep those cards and letters coming! Second, because of formatting problems, the map that was supposed to appear in the article got left out. You can find the map in the Dip Pouch's variants section under 1900. Finally, for those of you familiar with the Gamers' Guide to 1900, which can also be found in the variants section of the Dip Pouch, much of the material in this and the subsequent articles will be redundant. I have, however, added new material at the end of each article that discusses how each Great Power has performed to date. I hope you find this interesting. -- Baron
In the S2002M issue of The Zine, I gave a broad overview of my 1900 variant. Beginning with this issue, I'm going to shift my focus to the individual Great Powers. I'm going to discuss how the Great Powers in 1900 differ from their Diplomacy counterparts, why I made the changes I did, and how I see the changes potentially impacting on game play. I'll also provide some observations and statistics on how each Great Power has performed in 1900 games played to date.
I'm starting with Austria-Hungary not only because it comes first alphabetically, but also because I'm an Austro-phile at heart. I don't really know why, but I've always wanted to play the “White Coats” when I had the chance. This is considered a little odd by most gamers since Austrian armies usually fared poorly on the battlefield, particularly after the fall of Napoleon. I hate to admit it, but from 1859 until the end of the Empire in 1918, the Imperial and Royal Army suffered an almost unbroken string of defeats against the other Powers (unless, of course, it was facing Italians, in which case there was usually cause for celebration in Vienna).
The sorry military record, the extremely conservative leadership, the lack of colonies, and the unwieldy relationship that existed between the Austrian and Hungarian portions of the Empire have combined to give Austria-Hungary an undeserved reputation (particularly among British historians) as a decrepit, ramshackle relic on the verge of collapse. I think such an impression is off the mark. Despite some glaring problems (and all of the European nations had glaring problems of some kind), Austria-Hungary was well governed, prosperous, strong, and stable. If it failed to compare to Germany in terms of military and economic power, all that can be said is that it was not alone.
To quote Lawrence Lafore in The Long Fuse: "Austria-Hungary was in area the second largest state in Europe. By 1914, it had grown to have a population of fifty million people, ranking third after Russia and Germany. In industrial output, it ranked fifth among the European nations; in foreign trade, fourth; in the brilliance of its intellectual and artistic achievements, second only to France. In contrast to its neighbors to the east and the south, it provided stable government, a commendable degree of civil liberty, an efficient civil service, a strong army, and unity, security, and protection for the tangled nationalities that occupied it."
So what's the point of all this? I'm glad you asked. The point is that Austria-Hungary was a Great Power, not the "Sick Man of Europe." Even if it wasn't as strong militarily or economically as the other Powers, the Dual Monarchy still had clout. In Diplomacy, however, Austria-Hungary is in actuality the weakling most people imagine it was. Looking at the game results shown in my earlier article, we see that Austria-Hungary performs well below average in the number solos and draws attained (283 versus 323 and 535 versus 616 respectively). It has also suffered far more losses than it should have on average (2881 versus 2760). Only miserable Italy has a worse overall record.
In my mind, there are several reasons for Austria-Hungary's comparatively inferior results.
First, it has a supply center (SC), Trieste, that borders directly on another Great Power's SC, Italy's Venice. No where else on the map does such a situation exist. This puts both Austria-Hungary and Italy under tremendous pressure right from the start and ensures any relationship between the Dual Monarchy and its Italian neighbor will have a significant amount of inherent potential for conflict or what I will hereafter call "friction." I'm sure this friction contributes directly to the relatively poor showings of each nation.
Second, Austria-Hungary and Turkey do not make particularly good long-term allies. Once Russia is dispatched, the Dual Monarchy generally finds itself sitting squarely astride the Ottoman Empire's primary expansion routes. With Turkish armies moving north in the east and west in the south, Austria-Hungary best resembles a nut caught in the jaws of a giant Turkish nutcracker. While any alliance can work given enough trust and communications between the allies, Rod Walker is correct when he mentions in the original Gamers' Guide to Diplomacy that A/T is an uncomfortable relationship for both parties. It's no coincidence that A/T is still considered somewhat noteworthy when one actually forms in a game.
What does this mean for the Dual Monarchy? In a balanced game, an Archduke would reasonably expect to have an ally within the eastern triangle (A/R/T) at least two thirds of the time. The widely held belief that A/Ts are relatively uncommon logically implies that the other two eastern alliances, A/R and R/T, are more common. If true, and I believe perception is reality in this case even though I have no hard data to go by, both Austria-Hungary and Turkey are at a disadvantage vis-à-vis Russia over a large number of games. Each is more likely than Russia to find itself the "odd Power out" or OPO at game-start (i.e., the Power that doesn't have an ally within its triangle). As we all know from bitter experience, not having a friend when the game begins is often tantamount to early elimination.
Third, and perhaps most significant, Austria-Hungary's defensive position is decidedly inferior to those enjoyed by its eastern neighbors. While Russia and Turkey both have at least one secure flank, Austria-Hungary must look in all directions. While it's true that peace with Germany is usually easy to obtain in the early going, Austria-Hungary has to maintain constant vigilance against the possibility of aggression by Italy, Russia, and Turkey. Even if an early alliance is formed with Russia or Turkey, the fact is that Austria-Hungary is much more vulnerable to a stab that threatens its core territories than Russia or Turkey is to an Austro-Hungarian invasion. Also, the Dual Monarchy is almost always vulnerable to an attack from the west while fighting its erstwhile ally in the east.
1900 attempts to address each of these shortcomings by adjusting the map and changing Austria-Hungary's at-start forces. At the same time, Archdukes are given new problems to puzzle over. What follows are brief discussions on the map and unit changes that affect Austria-Hungary directly.
To begin with, the Italian SC in Venice (now Venetia) is gone. The Italian SC has moved to a new space called Milan. Venetia is simply a buffer between Milan and Austro-Hungarian Trieste. This diffuses the tense situation with Italy significantly since an army or fleet can no longer be built in one Power's SC in the Winter and then moved directly into the other Power's SC in the Spring. Additionally, a unit that might otherwise have been forced to pull garrison duty can be used more effectively elsewhere since the controlling player knows he has a turn to react to a potential attack.
Next, new SCs in Algiers, Switzerland, and Tripolitania, and the increased vulnerability of the critical Tyrrhenian Sea space to British or French seizure all contribute to a subtle shift in Italy's orientation westward away from Austria-Hungary, at least initially. I'll discuss this shift more when I talk about Italy, but suffice it to say for now that these changes should work to make an Italian attack into Austria-Hungary less likely at game-start.
This is not to imply that an Italian opening of A Milan to Tyrolia and/or A Rome to Venetia is out of the question. In fact, as long as relations with France are cozy, Italy will be largely free to follow an irredentist policy at Austria-Hungary's expense. Archdukes must understand that they cannot afford to ignore the Pope or take Italian neutrality at game-start for granted. Fortunately, Italian concerns about the fate of Switzerland and North Africa should make it easier for the Archduke to convince the Pope that conflict between Austria-Hungary and Italy should be avoided.
Italy's westward orientation is not all good news as far as Vienna is concerned, however. Consider:
As you can see, the changes around Italy have both positive and negative repercussions for the Dual Monarchy. With Turkey the news is almost universally good.
The first thing that jumps out at us when we look at the 1900 map is that the world has been made round and "Fortress Turkey" is just a little more vulnerable. Not only does Turkey now have a legitimate southern flank, it has a southern flank with a potential enemy unit already in it (Britain's F Egypt). Worse still for the Turks, a potential enemy (most likely Britain or France) can reinforce this flank quickly through the Suez Canal if the situation is favorable. I'll address this further when I get to Britain and Turkey, but the impact is clear: should the Sultan decide to attack Austria-Hungary, he will have to look over his shoulder just like the Archduke does currently when he attacks a neighbor. I also think it's worth mentioning that having Turkey as a common neighbor gives the Archduke and Prime Minister more reasons to talk to each other than they currently have in Diplomacy.
The changed geography around Turkey affects Austria-Hungary in another fundamental way. The addition of the dot-rich North African coast to the game-map, the placement of Greece squarely within Turkey's sphere of influence, and the existence of buffer zones in Macedonia and the Adriatic Sea all combine to provide Turkey with an expansion route that doesn't pass dangerously close to Habsburg territories. This should facilitate the formation of A/Ts, thereby enhancing Austro-Hungarian prospects coming out of the blocks.
A quick gaze to the northwest reveals another significant change. Germany is rather wimpy in Diplomacy, at least in my opinion. This is particularly true considering how strong Germany actually was in relation to the other Great Powers in 1914. In 1900, Germany looks much more formidable with three armies and one fleet on hand at game-start and lots of easy-to-get-at neutrals nearby. As with Italy, the changes pose both a problem and an opportunity for the Dual Monarchy.
The problem stems from the fact that Germany may decide to use its newfound muscle to try and annex parts of the Empire. Fears that Prussia might do just that contributed to the quick resolution of the Austro-Prussian War and to Austro-Hungarian neutrality in the Franco-Prussian War. An opening move of A Munich to Tyrolia or Bohemia is likely to cause panic in Vienna. Since Germany can use A Munich in this manner and still have a reasonable expectation of getting three builds (as I'll discuss when I get to Germany), such a move represents a terrible threat to Austria-Hungary. The Archduke must ensure this threat doesn't materialize. My hunch is he'll succeed most of the time. I suspect only Austro-Hungarian incompetence or laziness, or a Kaiser who likes to be different will result in an early German attack.
On the plus side, Germany might be willing to send one or two of its armies rolling east right away to help Austria-Hungary against Russia. This was, incidentally, exactly the expectation in Austria-Hungary at the start of WWI (too bad it didn't happen or the war might have been over quickly). Archdukes must be forewarned, however: a game-start alliance with powerful Germany involves risk. On the one hand, Germany may come to dominate the Dual Monarchy and reduce Austria-Hungary to puppet status, as happened historically. On the other hand, alliance with Germany does not necessarily mean German units will move east in force. Just as in WWI, Germany may focus on B/F and leave the Dual Monarchy largely to its own devices. Tepid German involvement in the east may only serve to create a stalemate in which Austria-Hungary may survive, but is unlikely to thrive.
Assuming for now that the Kaiser is an “Easterner,” it's probably safe to say that the movement of A Berlin or A Munich eastward is sure to cause any Russian advance against the Dual Monarchy to lose its momentum right away. Should both armies head east in Spring ‘00 (A Berlin to Prussia and A Munich to Silesia) in conjunction with an Austro-Hungarian move into Galicia, the potential exists to knock the Tsar back into Siberia.
In fact, the danger to Russia that these moves posed was so great that I was forced to make a map change early on in the life of the variant. The adjustment involved the enlargement of Bohemia so that Vienna no longer bordered Galicia while, on the flip side, Budapest now bordered Bohemia. Without this change, it was far too easy for Austria-Hungary and Germany to take Warsaw and deny Russia any neutral SCs. The attack (as demonstrated so forcefully by Chris Connor as Austria-Hungary and Eric Greneoux as Germany in the second 1900 playtest) went as follows:
Even with perfect knowledge of an impending attack (an unlikely eventuality), Russia was almost powerless to prevent the early loss of Warsaw. Nor was that the end of the trouble for the Tsar. With three Austro-Hungarian units on Rumania (A Galicia, A Budapest, and A Serbia), Russian prospects for capturing any neutral in '00 were virtually nil without Turkish support and a great deal of luck. At best Russia came out even. At worst, Russia was already down one (or two if Turkey was in on the slaughter) and faced the prospect of an avalanche of red and black (and yellow!) units carving up the rest of the carcass. In effect, the contest would be one turn old and the Tsar would already be asking if anyone else had time for another game. This was certainly not a desirable outcome, especially for whoever had the misfortune to draw the white block.
Adjusting the boundary of Bohemia-Galicia as described above precludes the possibility of Austria-Hungary forcing its way into Galicia from Vienna against Russian resistance. Russia thereby gains at least a fighting chance against an A/G. Austria-Hungary can still put armies in Galicia, Budapest, and Serbia in Spring '00, but doing so now requires diplomatic skill. Further, it is diplomacy, versus any inherent advantage, that will determine whether Austria-Hungary gains control of Rumania instead of Russia or Turkey. I personally think this is as it should be.
Interestingly, while the border change just discussed was installed to prevent Russia from being overrun by an A/G, the cumulative effect of all the changes in 1900 means that Germany must deal with the very real prospect of an A/R threatening the Reich from the east. Before I go there, however, I want to examine the situation that brought about the army in Trieste that I mentioned earlier.
Trieste has been divided into two provinces, Bosnia and Trieste. I did this because Bosnia was not "officially" part of the Dual Monarchy at the turn of the century. For you history buffs (i.e., for you wretched souls like me who don't have a life and enjoy looking at old maps), Trieste consists of the provinces of Dalmatia, Croatia-Slavonia, Istria, and Carniola. Anyone familiar with the Dual Monarchy's internal arrangement will appreciate that this is a lousy grouping of territories from a historical perspective (since Croatia-Slavonia belonged to Hungary while the other provinces belonged to Austria), but it works wonderfully from a game-mechanics point of view. The fall-out from separating Bosnia and Trieste was that F Trieste was rendered practically useless both offensively and defensively.
In Diplomacy, if relations with Italy permit, F Trieste can sail to Albania in Spring '01 and grab Greece that Fall. In 1900, the journey is longer and tougher. Sailing at full-steam, F Trieste doesn't come within sight of Greece until the second game-year. By that time, Greece is likely to be in Italian or Turkish hands. This doesn't even take into account the fact that F Trieste would have to violate Turkish Macedonia or lay claim to the Ionian Sea to reach Greece in three turns. While the Sultan might find an Austro-Hungarian fleet landing in his territory annoying, the Pope may become absolutely incensed by the sight of an uninvited Austro-Hungarian fleet in "his" sea space, especially if that fleet has designs on Greece, which Italy tends to view as within its sphere of influence.
Rather than burden Austria-Hungary at game-start with a fleet that can do little more than wallow around in the Adriatic Sea or start unwanted wars with the Dual Monarchy's sea-faring neighbors, I decided to expand the Imperial and Royal Army. Clearly, in 1900, if Austria-Hungary is going to win the game, it will be because its armies march to victory, not because its fleets sail there. I think this is historically correct. The Imperial Navy was a mere afterthought in Vienna, good for controlling the Adriatic Sea, but not much else. The Imperial and Royal Army, on the other hand, formed one of the key pillars of the Empire.
So what are the impacts of A Trieste? Actually, they are many.
First, A Trieste greatly enhances the Empire's defense. Consider that in Diplomacy, Russia initially has two units to throw directly at Austria-Hungary (A Warsaw and A Moscow) and a third (F Sevastopol) that can influence the fighting in Rumania and Bulgaria. Austria-Hungary initially has only two units to counter Russian aggression, A Budapest (that normally takes Serbia) and A Vienna (that often moves to Galicia). All other things being equal (which they admittedly never are), Russia will have the initiative against Austria-Hungary in every case. By replacing F Trieste with A Trieste, the pendulum swings back toward Austria-Hungary. Now, A Trieste can be used to take Serbia while A Budapest halts a Russian advance into Galicia or Rumania and A Vienna moves to Bohemia or Budapest to block or provide support. Any Austro-Russian War is likely to be a stalemate, with the other Powers, particularly Turkey, determining whether the Habsburgs or the Romanovs prevail. Since the statistics referenced earlier show that Russia claims a solo victory much more often than Austria-Hungary (446 to 283) and loses fewer times (2726 to 2881), any leveling of the playing field between these two Powers is probably good for the game as a whole.
Second, A Trieste virtually guarantees that Austria-Hungary will get two builds in '00 as long as the Archduke is able to secure an alliance with either Russia or Turkey.
At first glance, alliance with Russia appears to be more problematic. Many Archdukes (and Tsars) immediately spot the Dual Monarchy's increased ability to compete for Rumania and seek out an alliance with Turkey. With A Trieste taking Serbia, A Budapest can open to Rumania. This will either thwart Russia's F Sevastapol to Rumania or claim Rumania directly if Russia opened F Sevastapol to Black Sea. Even better for Austria-Hungary, A Serbia is now in position to support A Rumania, if the move from Budapest succeeded, or support an attack from Budapest to Rumania, if a bounce occurred. A friendly Turkey that orders A Damascus to Armenia and/or F Ankara to Black Sea virtually ensures that the pressure on Russia will result in Austria-Hungary winning the battle for Rumania. Note that the Archduke should probably not count on direct support into Rumania in Fall '00 from a Turkish army in Bulgaria. This is because the Sultan is more likely to open A Constantinople to Macedonia in Spring ‘00 (I'll discuss this opening and its ramifications when I get to Turkey).
In their haste to fight over Rumania, many Archdukes and Tsars fail to appreciate that it is possible for Austria-Hungary to get two builds in '00 while Russia claims Rumania for at least one build. If the Archduke orders A Trieste to Serbia and A Budapest to Rumania, while the Tsar orders A Warsaw to Galicia, A Moscow to Ukraine, and F Sevastapol to Black Sea, the two allies can ensure that Austria-Hungary takes Bulgaria and Russia captures Rumania regardless of how the Sultan moved. If the Sultan used the traditional Diplomacy opening of A Constantinople to Bulgaria, it's likely Turkey will be kept without a build! Many Archdukes may be squeamish about allowing Russian troops to enter Galicia, but the fact that Galicia no longer touches Vienna largely eliminates the immediate threat to the Dual Monarchy. If there are any doubts about Russian intentions, A Vienna to Budapest will ensure the Empire is as safe as it can be against Russian perfidy. If, on the other hand, the Archduke trusts the Tsar completely or he is a bit of a gambler, A Vienna can be used in other ways.
Third, and perhaps more interesting, A Trieste gives Austria-Hungary the capability of weighing into central European affairs directly. Doing so makes for good alternative history. After all, until 1859, Austria-Hungary was considered the premier Power in Italy and until 1866, it was considered the most powerful German state. By 1900, it had been effectively excluded from both Italian and German affairs. This did not mean, however, that the traditionalists in Vienna gladly accepted the lesser role they were assigned. There is no reason to believe that Austria-Hungary might not have been tempted to reassert old claims in northern Italy and southern Germany if the European diplomatic situation in the last part of the 19th century had been different.
A "western" strategy is not really feasible for Austria-Hungary in Diplomacy at game-start. Almost always, A Budapest is used to take Serbia. F Trieste can seize Venice, but then it has pretty much exhausted its offensive potential. A Vienna is often needed to defend against a Russian invasion of Galicia from Warsaw. A Trieste, in combination with the map changes discussed earlier, alters these dynamics. Consider the following:
In all three cases above, Archdukes must keep in mind that moves that appear risky or even disastrous in '00 may work wonderfully in '01. If Austria-Hungary gets two builds in '00, as it should if allied with either Russia or Turkey at game-start, the opportunity to head west in force and make life tough for the Kaiser or Pope should still be there in Spring '01.
I believe Austria-Hungary will continue to focus eastward at game-start on most occasions. Western openings, while exciting and potentially rewarding in the long run (particularly A/R against Germany), generally don't offer the immediate and relatively risk-free payback that a purely eastern campaign does. However, given that the game is all about bluffing, negotiating, and gambling, the fact that Austria-Hungary CAN move westward in '00 (and certainly in '01) gives the Dual Monarchy options and influence, perhaps out of proportion to its actual capabilities. The threat of being able to intervene in the west effectively transforms the Dual Monarchy from an after-thought for both Britain and France, as it is in Diplomacy, into a viable ally worth courting. I think this kind of increased interaction between the players can only serve to make the game more interesting.
In summary, the key differences between Austria-Hungary in Diplomacy and in 1900 are as follows:
The bottom line to all of this is that Austria-Hungary appears more flexible in 1900 than it is in Diplomacy. This flexibility allows the Dual Monarchy to work well with any of its neighbors, except possibly Italy, and gives the Archduke more options as the game opens.
Now let's see how Austria-Hungary has performed in the 1900 games played to date. Before I go any further, though, I want to relate a short story.
I keep statistics for all standard Diplomacy games played on AOL. Much to my surprise, Germany went through a terrible 100-game stretch where it had the following record:
What a horrible record: 1 solo, 23 draws, 76 losses. Obviously Germany is a bust! Diplomacy's play balance is fatally flawed! Well…maybe not. The statistics from my first article suggest that over the history of Diplomacy, Germany has proven itself to be arguably the most "average" of the Great Powers. Clearly, Germany simply had a run of "bad luck" on AOL.
Consider, though, the implications for variant design. If we had one hundred 1900 games on record (a truly large number of games played for most variants) and Russia had only one solo in all of those games, I think everybody would be telling me that I made Russia far too weak. Statistically, they would be right. I'd probably be feeling that way myself. Yet we could all be wrong.
The bottom line is that we sometimes have to rely on what our "gut" tells us. In this case, my instincts tell me that 1900 is more balanced than Diplomacy, but I really have no proof of this. This is especially true when we consider that the sample size of 1900 games is currently rather small. To date, twenty-one 1900 games have been started. Of these twenty-one games, fifteen have been completed and six are currently on-going. Of the fifteen that have been completed, five were played with older versions of the map and eight used a slightly different version of the Suez Canal Rules. Of the six games on-going, two are clearly in end-game, one is in mid-game, and the remaining three have just started. Given all of this, it is virtually impossible to draw any hard and fast conclusions either in favor of the variant's play balance or against it. This must be kept in mind when reviewing the information below.
In the fifteen games that have been completed, Austria-Hungary has one solo, one draw (a 4-way), four survivals, and nine eliminations. This ranks it fifth overall with a Great Power Rating (GPR) of 15.00. [NOTE: As discussed in the first article, an average Great Power has a GPR of 25.71.] To be honest, this record is somewhat disappointing. This is all the more true when we consider the fact that the Dual Monarchy's sole victory came in the second playtest when it was still possible for A/G to easily overrun Russia, which is, in fact, what happened in that game. Still, I've seen enough games played to feel confident that Austria-Hungary is competitive. This is better reflected in the following statistic.
I believe that once a Great Power attains a certain "threshold size," its ultimate success or failure becomes primarily a function of how well it is played and is not due to any liabilities or advantages conferred upon it by its starting position. Given this belief, I measure how often a particular Great Power reaches "competitive size" during the course of a particular game. In the case of Great Powers that start the game with 3 SCs, I felt that 7 SCs represented the appropriate competitive threshold, while 8 SCs represented the competitive threshold for Great Powers starting the game with 4 SCs. Further, if any Great Power reached 13+ SCs, it was considered "large." Being "large" meant that the Great Power had a reasonable chance of winning or participating in a draw. In the games on record, the "average" Great Power reached competitive size 56% of the time and became large 20% of the time.
As stated earlier, three of the twenty-one 1900 games have just started and it is far too early to tell how well Austria-Hungary will do. In the remaining eighteen games, Austria-Hungary remained small nine times and reached competitive size nine times. Further, in the nine games the Dual Monarchy reached competitive size, it became large five times and it still has the potential to become large a sixth time. Thus, the Dual Monarchy was "competitive" in 50% of the games examined, which ranks it fourth overall in this category and it had a legitimate chance to win or draw in 28% of its games, which ranks it second overall.
Curiously, Austria-Hungary's ability to reach competitive size can often be forecasted very early in the game. This leads me to my next statistic.
BUILDS IN '00:
Here, I attempt to measure how quickly and consistently a particular Great Power "gets out of the blocks." In the twenty games that have progressed to Fall ‘00, the Dual Monarchy has gotten one build in '00 nine times, two builds nine times, and three builds two times. The good news is that Austria-Hungary is one of the two Great Powers, along with Germany, that is virtually assured of at least one build in '00. The bad news is that the guarantee of a build is no guarantee of success. In the six completed games in which Austria-Hungary was limited to only one build, it was eliminated. This actually isn't very surprising since being limited to one build in '00 usually means that the Dual Monarchy is facing an R/T at game-start. >
In Diplomacy, Serbia and Greece are generally considered Austro-Hungarian neutrals. It will occasionally get to Rumania first, but this is not common. Claiming Bulgaria first is virtually unheard of. The dynamics for neutral conquest change in 1900. Based on the games that have progressed far enough for the call to be made, Austria-Hungary has been the first Great Power to claim four different neutrals: Serbia, Rumania, Bulgaria, and Switzerland. Each is discussed below:
Unfortunately, the records for the very first 1900 game were lost. In the remaining nineteen games in which Spring '00 moves have been recorded, Austria-Hungary moved as shown below.
That's it for now. In the next article, we'll look at Britain. Until then, Happy Stabbing!
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